Kristina (right) and Sofia fled Ukraine

Women of Ukraine on International Women’s Day 2022

On International Women’s Day we stand strong with women of Ukraine

As fighting continues, bombs drop and towns are devastated, women are having to make the heartbreaking choice of leaving their husbands to defend Ukraine while they flee to safety with their children.

Women like Kristina, from Western Ukraine, who has arrived in Romania with her 8-year-old daughter, Sofia. They travelled by car, then on foot, on the same day that Kristina’s husband went in the other direction to fight in the conflict.

Kristina and Sofia fled the Ukraine, now refugees

Appeal

As part of the Disasters Emergencies Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, we are grateful to everyone who has donated to that appeal and directly to World Vision. Over 2 million people have fled Ukraine, and World Vision and other charities are scaling up their work to ensure refugees have food, water, clothes and the psychological support they need.

Human trafficking

Along with leaving behind their home and facing an unknown future, Ukrainian women and children are also at risk of human trafficking, a dangerous by-product of the country’s conflict-fuelled refugee crisis. A survey by World Vision's office in Romania, a country receiving large numbers of Ukrainian refugees, has confirmed the prevalence of human trafficking in the country. A study of 200 girls from Romania, aged 14-19, found 97% of respondents had heard of instances of human trafficking, with more than half (53%) believing women are most at risk. 

When asked how they would describe human trafficking in Romania, 72% said prostitution, being kidnapped (67%), being bought or sold (65%), forced labour (34%) and forced begging (30%). 

World Vision is actively responding both inside Ukraine through distributing urgently needed food and hospital supplies, as well as providing support to refugees at a number of border crossings in Romania, since the onset of the conflict. 

World Vision Middle East and Eastern Europe Regional Office Regional Leader Eleanor Monbiot OBE - who has been leading World Vision's response to the Ukraine crisis and many other ongoing conflicts, such as Syria and Afghanistan – says:  

"Even before this conflict, areas of Eastern Europe had posed a high risk to vulnerable women of falling victim to human trafficking. But the Ukrainian conflict is causing many more women to become vulnerable to trafficking. Displacement, suddenly falling into extreme poverty, being widowed, losing, or being separated from family members and many other characteristics of this conflict, are creating countless more vulnerable women every hour.  

"This International Women's Day, the number of women who are at risk of traffickers capitalising on their vulnerabilities is growing exponentially. This could be done through fraudulent travel and/or employment arrangements.  

"In recent years, we have seen that the majority of human trafficking victims detected in Europe have come from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, in particular Ukraine, Romania Bulgaria, Russia and Moldova."

World Vision staff stand with a mother and children
Mihaela Nabăr (right) with Ukrainian mother and children and World Vision International CEO Andrew Morley (left)

Scared and exhausted

Mihaela Nabăr, National Director of World Vision Romania – the office which has spearheaded World Vision's response in supporting refugees in Romania, and across borders, as well as to people inside Ukraine - says: "Today we celebrate women across the globe. But our thoughts and prayers in this difficult time turn to the most vulnerable women from Ukraine."

"The refugees that entered into Romania over the last week are mostly women; often mothers with two or three children that need care, pregnant women or young women escaping the war. They are scared and exhausted following days of walking to reach the border. However, they are not just afraid for themselves - many are afraid for their children, for the parents or the spouses they left at home. The risk of human trafficking here in Eastern Europe was growing even before the Ukraine conflict. Now that risk is even larger."  

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